Air New Zealand has sent itself to the naughty corner after poking fun at rival Australian airline Jetstar. On the same day Jetstar's first new regional routes took off Air New Zealand launched an attack on the low cost carrier with a snarky newspaper advertisement.
The advert, which appears in The Dominion Post and the New Zealand Herald, quotes Jetstar's claim to being "New Zealand's most punctual domestic airline", alongside a photo of a Jetstar plane with a Pinocchio-like nose.
Air New Zealand also posted the image to its Facebook page, along with the caption: "When is it OK to be fashionably late?"
Air New Zealand responded to the negative feedback by posting a picture of a sad kiwi bird standing in a corner with the words "Whoops! We were just poking a bit of fun at our big Aussie cousins. #naughtycorner".
Marketing expert Brandon Wilcox of Evolve Marketing said Air New Zealand was engaging in negative advertising instead of getting on with the business of competing with Jetstar, which could backfire on it.
"Kiwis will be loyal to their own, which is Air New Zealand, but also support the underdog which in this case is Jetstar," Wilcox said.
Air New Zealand was at risk of be perceived as having "sour grapes" for Jetstar entering its turf, he said.
"It's a very dangerous game."
Asked whether Jetstar would engage in Air New Zealand's name calling tactics Jetstar head of New Zealand Grant Kerr said it was business as usual for the low cost carrier.
"It looks like we've got up their nose," Kerr said.
While another spokesman added: "Air NZ has finally dropped their fares on regional routes and now they are promoting our regional airline, although they haven't got their facts right. It's amazing what a little competition will do.
"We're very proud of our focus on punctuality and report our results transparently each month on our website, which Air NZ has stopped doing."
Jetstar says performance figures showed its flights were the most on-time of the two major carriers in nine out of 12 months last year.
The figures compared jet services and measured flights departing within 10 minutes of schedule between January and June 2014 and within 15 minutes of schedule between July and December 2014.
But the validity of the comparison has been questioned, as Air New Zealand operates a larger fleet and more domestic flights than Jetstar.
A spokeswoman for Air New Zealand said more recent statistics showed the airline operated the most reliable domestic jet service in New Zealand, outperforming Jetstar's on-time performance seven out of 10 months in the calendar year to October.
Air New Zealand published its statistics on its website quarterly to reflect the overall trend that was most relevant and helpful to customers, she said.
Competition between the airlines has been hotting up since Jetstar announced in June it would expand its network to Nelson, Napier, Palmerston North and New Plymouth using a fleet of five 50-seat Bombardier Q300 turbo-prop aircraft.
When tickets first went on sale a price war broke out between the two, with regional airfares selling for as low as $9.
Jetstar launched its first flight from Napier to Auckland on Tuesday morning, departing three minutes ahead of schedule, according to a Jetstar spokesman.
Jetstar CEO David Hall said demand for the new regional services had exceeded expectations, with nearly 3500 customers booked on the first week and average loads of more than 85 per cent.
Last month Air New Zealand announced it would purchase 15 new ATR72-600 aircraft to operate its regional services, four of which would allow for further growth on regional routes and 11 to replace its ATR72-500 fleet.
SIOBHAN DOWNES AND JOHN ANTHONY
Last updated 14:33, December 1 2015